Born a carioca (from Rio de janeiro) on November 7, 1901, by the time of the first phase of the Modernist Movement in Brazil, she already belonged to the Spiritualists, a group of writers who were direct descendente of the Symbolists of Paraná. Friend of the Chilean Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral, Cecilia Meireles has constantly fortered two aesthetic forces in her poetry: tradition and mistery. Perhaps the most dedicated craftsman of the generation, greatly amired in India, Israel, and the Latin countries of Western Europe, she has created a dozen of volumes of lyrics so limpid and intense as to be the envy of her male contemporaries. These volumes, collected in Obra Poética (1958), run to better than a thousand pages. The union of such quantitly with such quality is one reason why she has twice been nominated for the Nobel Prize.
Translated , with the help of Yolanda Leite,
by JOHN NIST
MODERN BRAZILIAN POETRY, AN ANTHOLOGY
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962
Here is my life:
This sand so clear
With drawing that walk
Dedicated to the wind…
Here is my voice:
This empty shell
The shadow of a sound
Preserving its own lament…
Here is my grief:
This broken coral
Surviving its pathetic moment…
Here is my heritage:
This solitary sea —
On one side it was love
And on the other forgetfulness.
I did not have this face of today
Nor these eyes so empty
Nor this bitter mouth.
I did not have these strenghtless hands
I did not realize this change
In what mirror did I lose my face?
I sing because the moment exists
And my life is complete.
I am not gay, I am not sad:
I am a poet.
Brother of fugitive things,
I feel no delight or torment.
I cross nights and days
In the wind.
Whether I destroy or build,
Whether I persist or disperse,
— I don´t know, I don´t know.
I don´t know if I stay or go.
I know that I sing.
The song is everything.
The rhythmic wing has eternal blood,
And I know that one day I shall be dumb:
— Nothing more.
Silver dagger you were,
It was not you who made
Such a fool of my hand.
I saw you shining among stones,
On your handle, blooming flowers,
On your blade, the exact measure,
The exact, the precise measure,
To cut through to my heart
With an initial and a date.
The greatest pain I have,
Is not to see me dying,
But to know who is killing me.
THE ROOSTERS WILL CROW
The roosters will crow when we die,
And a soft breeze, with delicate hands,
Will touch the fringes, the silken
And the sleep of night will cloud
The clear windows.
And the crickets, far off, will saw silences:
Stalks of crystal, cold long solitudes,
And the enormous perfume of trees.
Ah, what sweet moon will look upon our calm face,
Even yet more calm than her great mirror
What thick freshness upon our hair,
As free as the fields at sunrise.
From the mist of dawn,
One last star
Will ascend: pale.
What immense peace, without human voice,
Without the lip of wolfish faces,
Without hatred, without love, without anything!
Like dark lost prophets,
Only the dogs will talk through the valleys.
Strong questions. Vast pauses.
We shall lie in death
In that soft contour
Of a shell in the water.
Just a medieval
O what is left of the dances,
of the tournaments and songs,
of the hopes,
of the lady friends and enemies
from a vague feudal time.
So small for the weight
of any shod life,
through now it is nothing,
what was it: love? contempt?
it has become supernatural.
Under the hem of whose dresses?
On what hard floors?
—Oh, heavy castles! —
What wounded hearts?
Among whose thought,
sad? innocent? beautiful?
treading upon Good and Evil…
In the brief world time,
the slender foot of a slender woman
has left this sandal
as a little token.
It is only a half step
Does the other lie in some deep entrance?
One half of the measure
of what final music?
Just a medieval
Here is the tiny shepherd,
much smaller than his flock,
watching, timid and careful,
the sunset in the field,
hugging the little lamb
like a brother his own size.
His eyes are, in the silence,
more than a shepherd´s — a saint´s.
The blue and green horizon
is turning violet and red,
and all the clouds disappear,
and a star comes on
— take away that boy
who is leading his flock.
Since the lords are already dead
and cannot fight any more,
their armored plates, with regret,
have sat them down to the game.
On the chessboard there the horses,
the towers, the soldiers, the king… A hand
of iron can almost reach to play;
it lacks only the articulation.
O briefly squared plain
of the chessboard!
Visors lonesome for blood,
for wars which time has undone.
O insatisfied ghosts
of the lords who are no more!
How much of death, without wars,
you, beyond all wars, now engage!
The voice of the Anchangel falls.
(From the top of colored towers,
among arrows and stained windows;
from the top of minarets; from the top
of Gothic steeples; from the height
of curved domes; from the fine
Golden Crescent; from the large
baroque belfries; from these
cold Jesuitical triangles;
from the arms of the crosses; from the clouds,
from the tree, from the jet of water,
from the doves´ wings, from the little
corolla of the frail anemone…)
The voice of the invisible Archangel falls.
(Tell me if you have ever heard it,
thus: far off, full of sorrow, centuries old.)
THE GATES OF MIDNIGHT
The angels come to open the gates of midnight,
at the very moment when sleep is deepest
and silence most pervasive.
The gates wheel open and unexpectedly we sigh.
The angels come with their music,
their tunics billowing with celestial breezes,
and they sin in their fluid incomprehensible tongue.
Then the trees burst forth with blossoms and fruit,
the moon and the sun intertwine their beams,
the rainbow unwinds its ribbons
and all the animals appear,
mingled with the stars.
The angels come to open the gates of midnight.
And we understand that there is no more time,
that this is the last vision,
that our hands are already lifted for goodbyes,
that our feet at last are freed form the earth,
freed for that flight, announced and dreamed
since the beginning of births.
The angels extend us their divine invitations.
And we dream that we are no longer dreaming.
TRANSLATIONS BY JAMES MERRIL
From AN ANTHOLOGY OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY BRAZILIAN POETRY
Edited, with Introduction, by Elizabeth Bishop and Emanuel Brasil
Middletown, Conn.: Weslian University Press
Sponored by The Academy of American Poets
SECOND ROSE MOTIF
To Mário de Andrade
However much I praise, you do not listen,
although in form and mother-of-pearl you could be
the uttering shell, the ear whose music lesson
engraves the inmost spirals of the sea.
I place you in crystal, in the mirror's prison
past all undertone of well or grotto . . .
Puré absence, blind incomprehension
offered to the wasp and to the bee
as to your acolyte, O deaf and mute
and blind and beautiful and interminable rose
who into time, attar and verse transmute
yourself now beyond earth or star arisen
to glisten from my dream, of your own beauty
insensible because you do not listen . . .
As the companion is dead,
so we must all together die
Shed for him who lost his life,
our tears are worth
Love for him, within this grief,
is a faint sigh lost in a vast
Faith in him, the lost
companion — what but that
To die ourselves somewhat
through him we see today
THE DEAD HORSE
I saw the early morning mist
make silver passes, shift
densities of opal
within sleep's portico.
On the frontier, a dead horse.
Crystal grains were rolling down
his lustrous flank, and the breeze
twisted his mane in a littlest,
lightest arabesque, sorry adornment
— and his tail stirred, the dead horse.
Still the stars were shining,
and that day's flowers, sad to say,
had not yet come to light
— but his body was a plot,
garden of lilies, the dead horse.
Many a traveler took note
of fluid music, the dewfall
of big emerald flies
arriving in a noisy gush,
He was listing sorely, the dead horse
And some live horses could be seen
slender and tail as ships,
galloping through the keen air
in profile, joyously dreaming.
White and green the dead horse
in the enormous field without recourse
— and slowly the world between
his eyelashes revolved, all blurred
as in red mirror moons.
Sun shone on the teeth of the dead horse.
But everybody was in a frantic rush
and could not feel how earth
kept searching league upon league
for the nimble, the immense, the ethereal breath
which had escaped that skeleton.
O heavy breast of the dead horse!
PYRARGYRITE METAL, 9
The piano tuner spoke to me, that tenderest
attender to each note
who looking over sharp and flat
hears and glimpses something more remote.
And his ears make no mistake
nor do his hands that in each chord awake
those sounds delighted to keep house together.
"Disinterested is my interest:
I don't confuse music and instrument, mere
piano tuner that I am,
calligrapher of that superhuman speech
which lifts me as a guest to its high sphere.
Oh! what new Physics waits up there to teach
other matters to another ear . . ."
TRANSLATION BY ABGAR RENAULT
E aqui estou, cantando.
Um poeta é sempre irmão do vento e da água:
deixa seu ritmo por onde passa.
Venho de longe e vou para longe:
mas procurei pelo chão os sinais do meu caminho
e não vi nada, porque as ervas cresceram e as serpentes andaram.
Também procurei no céu a indicação de uma trajetória,
mas houve sempre muitas nuvens.
E suicidaram-se os operários de Babel.
Pois aqui estou, cantando.
Se eu nem sei onde estou,
como posso esperar que algum ouvido me escute?
Ah! Se eu nem sei quem sou,
como posso esperar que venha alguém gostar de mim?
And here I am, singing...
A poet is Always brother to the wind and water;
he leaves his rhythm where he goes.
I am coming from afar and I am going far,
but I have searched the ground for signs of my way
and I have seen nothing, for weeds have grown up and
snakes have moved about.
I have also searched the sky for the pointing of a way,
but there have Always been many clouds.
And the workmen of Babel have commited suicide.
So here I am singing...
I do not even know where I am,
how can I expect that any ear should listen to me?
O I do not even know who I am,
how can I expect anyone to love me?
Página publicada em janeiro de 2009. ampliada e republicada em junho de 2009; ampliada em agosto de 2016